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Continued from Sheridan

After breakfast they climbed back into the station wagon and bumped down 25 miles of dirt corduroy to the ranch. Gulping the first of many breaths of dusty Wyoming air, the load of greasy bacon churned in Yry’s stomach. Throughout the drive Claire pumped Yry about the latest news from the city. “How was Norah’s health? How was Herman’s business doing? What was the latest talk about the war? What did they hear from her relatives in Germany? What shows had she seen recently?” Yry fielded the questions as best she could while bile crept upwards with each pothole.

At the ranch, Claire ushered her into the house via the backdoor, which was, in fact, the main entrance. They walked through a small washroom with worn linoleum—nearly buried under assorted boots and overshoes—the ubiquitous boot horn, coats and hats hanging from hooks along the walls, and a deep, metal wash basin. The washroom opened into a galley kitchen, pleasantly lit by a bank of windows that stretched the length of the north wall. In the living room Yry met Claire’s mother, Netti, who rose slowly from a wing backed chair to greet her. The two Cormack children bounced in from somewhere outside and ceremoniously shook her hand. The tour of the house ended when they reached Yry’s bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway.

“You go ahead and freshen up. George will bring your bags up and you can unpack and change into something more comfortable. There are towels on the bed.”

Yry gratefully closed the door behind her and collapsed on the bed, holding her rumbling stomach and breathing deeply to control waves of nausea. She was startled out of a deep sleep half an hour later when George knocked on the door and boomed that she must have brought a small pony in her luggage.

The catnip had settled her stomach and her nerves. She quickly organized her things in the closet and bureau drawers, then stalled at the window to gaze at the huge, red-roofed barn and network of empty wooden-railed corrals just across the road. The corrals were flanked on the south by undulating terrain of tall yellow grass and bushy green shrubs and cottonwoods through which a thin stream trickled. Directly behind the corrals stood a barren looking mound, covered in sagebrush and dry yellow grass that glinted gold in the morning light. It seemed too quiet. Where were the horses, the cattle, the chickens, the hired hands…the cars, the traffic….?

View from Yry’s bedroom window

After a quick sponge bath in the bathroom down the hall, she threw on a shirt-waist dress with red bands of polka-dotted trim and a pair of white socks under sandals. She found Claire in the kitchen. “My, don’t you look nice and refreshed,” Claire commented. “I think George is outside waiting to show you around.”

She ventured into the bright sun and found George in the shade of the house, where a vine of morning glories climbed up trellises of baling wire to the eaves over the kitchen windows. He was roughhousing with his red chow, Chickie. The top button of his long-sleeved khaki shirt was open, revealing a cotton t-shirt with a few unruly hairs escaping from the top. His dusty-kneed, brown canvas pants were belted with a one-inch wide belt and a simple silver buckle. His shirt and pants were stretched firmly over an ample waist and plain, brown boots peeked from under his pant legs. Notably, his tall-crowned and broad-brimmed felt hat bathed his face and ears in shade and added inches to his stature. He had a quick, quirky smile and kind eyes nestled in a web of crow’s feet. He showed her the vegetable garden, the barns and corrals and explained that Dallas, Claire’s brother, was bringing in the horses. There were dogs and cats, horses, chickens, pigs all of whom Yry would learn more about in the future. Most of the cattle, of course, were out on summer pasture. The big round-up at the end of next month was where they’d most need her help.

Continued